A Legacy of Giving
Bryan LeCompte of Yard Designs, Inc. with PRMC Foundation President Denise Billing
BRYAN LECOMPTE HONORS THE LIFE OF MARIE WALLER WHILE CREATING A NEW HOME FOR THE PRMC FOUNDATION
Written by Jonathan Westman / Photography by Grant L. Gursky
To give: It’s defined as the “act of presenting voluntarily and without expecting compensation.” It’s how Marie Waller lived all 102 years of her life — the majority of which were spent in a modest family home at 409 Royal Street in Salisbury with her husband, Ed, and their three children. Built in 1940, their three-bedroom residence was located in what was widely regarded as one of the city’s great neighborhoods for its close-knit collection of genuine, hardworking residents.
Born in 1911 on a farm in Laurel, DE, Marie earned a nursing degree from Peninsula General Hospital School of Nursing in Salisbury in 1934. For the next 50 years, she dedicated her life to caring for those in need as a private-duty and general-duty nurse at Peninsula General Hospital — known today as Peninsula Regional Medical Center — located just a stone’s throw from her home.
“She was a nurse first and foremost. Always a caregiver at work and at home,” said Rosemary Cupp, Marie’s only daughter, who worked as a nurse practitioner at Salisbury State College for 26 years. “I remember her putting on her nurse’s cape and walking around the corner to work. She looked like a superhero. She worked many double shifts to help my brothers and me get an education.”
Bryan LeCompte, the successful owner of Yard Designs, Inc., knows of Marie Waller’s graciousness and generous nature firsthand. As a close friend of her grandson, Sean Cupp, Bryan spent countless days and nights at the Waller home growing up, including many Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. He quickly and affectionately earned the distinction of the family’s adopted neighborhood son and grandson, and “Granny Marie” as he called her, became a very instrumental figure in his life, as she and her family welcomed Bryan unconditionally.
“If you met her, you’d never forget her,” Bryan said. “When I started my business in the late ’80s, she and Ed were getting older, and I began helping to take care of them and the property with Rosemary and Jim. An addition was built to the back of the home in the ’90s. They were unable to get up and down the steps then, so a bedroom, bathroom and living area were created on the main level.”
Marie remained in the home until her passing in February 2014, and the Waller home sat vacant before it was sold to the hospital in 2016. As PRMC’s campus development progressed, the home was the last structure standing from the old neighborhood. Surrounded on all sides by parking lots, it was to be demolished to make room for additional spaces.
That would have happened if not for a dream LeCompte, a PRMC Foundation board member, had in April 2017. In it, he was able to save the home, renovate it and see the Foundation use it as their headquarters. With that, his “Giving House” idea was born.
“I wanted the concept to be modeled after Marie,” Bryan said. “I asked the hospital for permission to propose a concept and rendering for consideration. It was granted, and I then asked for a resolution in which the house could never be named after anyone. It would forever remain The Giving House, and its only use would be as the home of the Foundation.”
A FOUNDATION’S NEW HOME
The Peninsula Regional Medical Center Foundation was established in 1993 and for the past 19 years has been directed by its president, Denise Billing. Supported by its board of directors and under her guidance, the Foundation has raised more than $35 million to purchase state-of-the-art medical equipment for diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation, patient-care services, education programs for professional and support staff, community-education programs, health screenings, and facility improvement and expansion.
Major capital campaigns funded by the Foundation during her tenure include the Layfield Tower project, expansions of the facility’s emergency department and operating rooms, the labor-and-delivery-unit renovation, the Richard A. Henson Cancer Institute Ocean Pines and the Rebecca and Leighton Moore Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Unit, among many others.
Since its inception, Foundation offices were located on the second floor of the hospital’s education building — one of the more dated structures on its campus. Thanks to LeCompte’s vision, the Foundation now calls The Giving House home.
But it wasn’t as simple as turning over a set of keys. The old, 2,000 sq. ft. Waller home underwent a massive renovation that began in February 2018 and lasted a full year. LeCompte was on the jobsite every day from July through December, including weekends and nights, and donated a significant amount of his own money to the effort. The entire home was refurbished, including new electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems, as well as new flooring, windows, doors and roofing, among many other substantial improvements.
“I get goosebumps talking about it because of the passion I have for this project,” Bryan said. “Granny inspired me, and I wanted to put my heart and soul into this home to pay tribute to her and pay it forward to the Foundation, which does so much for our community.”
Denise, Megan [Caton], Barbara [O’Neill] and Debbie [Suska] are the rocks of our Foundation,” LeCompte continued. “They are the ones getting it done every day. Their job is often thankless, and they should be commended. I’m happy I was able to create something that honors them and the importance of what they do for our community.”
Throughout The Giving House, Bryan pays tribute to the Wallers, as well as influential figures in the storied history of PRMC. The old living room is now the Foundation’s conference room, handsomely outfitted with a custom farmhouse table and Windsor chairs and walls adorned with historic photos and shadow boxes containing precious keepsakes from Marie’s career. Founding hospital member Dr. William Todd and his grandson, Dr. Nevins Todd Jr., a member of the PRMC staff for 33 years who performed the Eastern Shore’s first open-heart surgery in 1974, are represented in portraits; William’s photo from the 1800s is one of a precious few known to be in existence.
Another wall honors the many accomplishments of Virginia Layfield, who worked for PRMC for 43 years, beginning as an emergency-room supervisor and ending as PRMC’s first woman president.
The home’s dining room and kitchen were converted into a reception and seating area, which contains Dr. Nevins Todd’s original microscope and operating glasses, as well as a recording log from the early 1900s in which hospital staff documented admissions, ailments, the cost of treatment and a patient’s diagnosis. One inscription reads: “Patient. Appendicitis. $12. Improved.”
Bryan also decorated the entire house and personally secured all of its antiques and furnishings, while paying homage to Salisbury’s poultry and Wicomico River industries in the process.
THE COMMUNITY GIVES BACK
In order to accomplish the substantial renovation, LeCompte initiated a fundraising campaign, but not a traditional one. He used The Giving House mantra, “Every home needs a foundation, and every foundation needs a home,” to connect with businesses for in-kind donations of materials and labor. Palmer Gillis was first to join, playing a vital role during construction, as did key supporters Dave Rommel and Joe Zimmer. Dozens of companies contributed to the cause.
LeCompte’s trademark design skills and craftsmanship are displayed throughout the grounds. It’s here that he expressed his gratitude to those who have made significant contributions to the house and entities across the Eastern Shore. The fireplace and Giving Ring “acknowledges people such as Leighton Moore, chairman of our Foundation board, and his wife, Rebecca, the Guerrieri family, Frank Hanna, Ed Wilgus and Jim Perdue, to name just a few, for their generous donations to our community, including the PRMC Foundation,” Bryan said.
Leighton’s Pavilion, a substantial, custom shade structure, which contains a 410-lb stainless-steel commemorative plaque, offers views to the hospital’s emergency helipad across the street, which the Moores were chiefly responsible for funding.
Additional recognition opportunities exist along the brick walkways that encompass the property, as well as naming rights to its cherry trees. Bryan also strategically designed the yard to accommodate large social gatherings and fundraisers.
THE SPIRIT OF GIVING
“My hope is that the house and its story will inspire others in our community to realize that they can make a difference,” LeCompte said. “Your $5 contribution matters. Your three hours of volunteering for a golf tournament, contributing a silent auction item to one of our events or being a part of our annual Gala matters. It matters just as much as a $500 check or a $500,000 check.”
“Bryan has taken something that was really knock-down worthy and transformed it into a knockout,” Billing said. “Now, we have a beautiful place to work on a daily basis and to host parties, events and donors. It is a very comfortable and warm environment, and we can’t thank everyone enough who contributed to its renovation. We’re really proud to call it home.”
The Foundation recently honored Bryan’s Giving House efforts by renaming Old West Vine Street, which is now Bryan LeCompte Way.
THE FORMAL GIVING HOUSE DEDICATION
LeCompte and Billing will be joined by hospital, civic, business and community leaders on May 9, when The Giving House will be formally dedicated to the Foundation. Rosemary Cupp will be there, too. The 78-year-old great-grandmother intends to stand proudly in support of her adopted son.
“I think I’ll feel more emotion for Bryan than I will to the house,” Rosemary said. “The house is a part of me and our family, but seeing Bryan’s vision come to fruition will be very emotional.”
I don’t think there are many days that Bryan doesn’t think of my mom,” she continued. “That sense of family we felt when he would stay with us in our home, through the good times and bad, provided him unconditional love, and that love was returned by him. He’s truly one-of-a-kind. I’ve never met anyone like Bryan; I don’t think I ever will.”